"Forget sports doping. The next frontier is brain doping," reports Karen Kaplan at the LA Times. "As Major League Baseball struggles to rid itself of performance-enhancing drugs, people in a range of other fields are reaching for a variety of prescription pills to enhance what counts most in modern life.
Despite the potential side effects, academics, classical musicians, corporate executives, students and even professional poker players have embraced the drugs to clarify their minds, improve their concentration or control their emotions. "There isn't any question about it -- they made me a much better player," said Paul Phillips, 35, who credited the attention deficit drug Adderall and the narcolepsy pill Provigil with helping him earn more than $2.3 million as a poker player."
The story goes on to discuss the neuroethical consequences of brain doping and ponders the inevitable epidemic of use which would occur should a cognitive enhancer be developed. There is far too much for humanity to gain here. It is only a matter of time before one of the 50 companies worldwide or one of the many more research labs currently focused on creating cogniceuticals for treatments more memory maladies strikes gold and the world shifts towards neuroenablement. (Hat Tip to Nils for the pointer)
December 20, 2007
There is no mistaking the progress: 2007 was an excellent year for the Neurotechnology Industry Organization! Our public policy agenda and public relations efforts made significant headway throughout the year and we look to build on this momentum in 2008.
Since our founding just sixteen months ago, over 60 organizations have joined our mission to accelerate the development of treatments for the brain and nervous system. As the only trade association representing companies involved in neuroscience (drugs, devices and diagnostics), brain research centers and patient advocacy groups, NIO is quickly becoming a powerful agent for change.
NIO's primary purpose is to increase awareness of neurotechnologies, reduce barriers to innovation, and support industry growth. With this in mind, I'd like to share with you some of our key activities from 2007, NIO's first full year in operation, and preview what's to come in 2008.
Read Full Review and Look Forward on NIO's website here. If you ever wonder why my blogging has slowed down it is because I'm spending nearly all my time on these projects.
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December 12, 2007
The 7th Year in Ideas from the New York Times highlights "neurorealism". Matthew Hutson writes:
You’ve seen the headlines: This Is Your Brain on Politics. Or God. Or Super Bowl Ads. And they’re always accompanied by pictures of brains dotted with seemingly significant splotches of color. Now some scientists have seen enough. We’re like moths, they say, lured by the flickering lights of neuroimaging — and uncritically accepting of conclusions drawn from it.
A paper published online in September by the journal Cognition shows that assertions about psychology — even implausible ones like “watching television improved math skills” — seem much more believable to laypeople when accompanied by images from brain scans. And a paper accepted for publication by The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience demonstrates that adding even an extraneous reference to the brain to a bad explanation of human behavior makes the explanation seem much more satisfying to nonexperts.
Eric Racine, a bioethicist at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute, coined the word neurorealism to describe this form of credulousness. In an article called “fMRI in the Public Eye,” he and two colleagues cited a Boston Globe article about how high-fat foods activate reward centers in the brain. The Globe headline: “Fat Really Does Bring Pleasure.” Couldn’t we have proved that with a slice of pie and a piece of paper with a check box on it? ”
As someone who has promulgated a bit of neuro'un'realism during the first few years of this blog, I agree with Racine's analysis. This is why you haven't seen me blog over the past several about articles in the popular press which stretch the implications of neuroscience research. As I've learned more about the technology, I've developed a more scrupulous eye and it is with this more neurorealistic perspective that I am writing my book on the societal implications of neurotechnologies. It's a fine balance between guesstimating how technologies might advance and understanding why they won't, a balancing act I am working hard at nailing down so you won't have to.
More posts on the topic here and here. More mind and brain ideas in this year's ideas can be found here.
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December 4, 2007
Believe in yourself. Don’t take no for an answer. Never quit. Don’t accept second best. These are all wise words of wisdom, unless you adopt them across all aspects of your life. This is the take home message of a story written by Benedict Carey in today's NYTimes wherein he explores how "perfectionism is a valuable lens through which to understand a variety of seemingly unrelated mental difficulties, from depression to compulsive behavior to addiction."
"Several recent studies stand as a warning against taking the platitudes of achievement too seriously. The new research focuses on a familiar type, perfectionists, who panic or blow a fuse when things don’t turn out just so....'It’s natural for people to want to be perfect in a few things, say in their job — being a good editor or surgeon depends on not making mistakes,' said Gordon L. Flett, a psychology professor at York University and an author of many of the studies. “It’s when it generalizes to other areas of life, home life, appearance, hobbies, that you begin to see real problems.”
He concludes..."The British have a saying that encourages people to show their skills while mocking the universal fear of failure: Do your worst. If you can’t tolerate your worst, at least once in a while, how true to yourself can you be?"
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